I was recently perusing a popular saltwater aquarium forum and came across a post from a novice hobbyist who is considering making the switch from freshwater to saltwater aquarium keeping. He had heard that the saltwater side of the hobby can be exorbitantly expensive and wanted to know which of a list of devices other forum members would consider indispensable to success. Among the devices in question were UV sterilizers, ozonizers, biopellet reactors, GFO reactors, ATO systems, and various and sundry other gadgets.

As you might imagine, responses varied considerably depending on the individual’s unique circumstances, experiences, and preferences. It was clear that everyone who offered a recommendation meant well and genuinely wanted to help this person get started on the right foot—and most did indicate the devices they consider worthwhile investments. However, a few offered a different sort of advice that can be paraphrased thusly: “Don’t worry about all the gadgets right now; focus on the fundamentals first.”

Jeff’s new Coral Vue Reef Octopus protein skimmer

This viewpoint definitely got my upvote because, despite our hobby being necessarily equipment-intensive (all saltwater systems need certain core equipment to provide proper water circulation, heating, lighting, etc.), no ancillary device on the market can replace good aquarium-maintenance and livestock-husbandry practices or compensate for poor ones. But that’s not my only concern when it comes to focusing on equipment before fundamentals. Having been in the aquarium hobby nearly 40 years (initially freshwater and then saltwater), I’ve noticed that opinions on the utility of the latest, greatest ancillary devices can change quite dramatically with the passage of time MORE

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